Once a high-octane rivalry, the Sacramento Kings have lost 10 straight to the Dallas Mavericks.  Their last game against Dallas wasn’t pretty – a 99-60 shellacking at the hands of the Mavs in January.  Sacramento attempts to break the streak tonight at Power Balance Pavilion.

Gametime: 7 pm PST
Broadcast Information: Click here.
For perspective on the Mavericks, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog “The Two Man Game“.

Kings Probable Starters (13-26)

Isaiah ThomasMarcus ThorntonTyreke EvansJason ThompsonDeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins will likely play after missing Wednesday game with a case of food poisoning.  J.J. Hickson is probably a no-go due to hip pointer injury he suffered a week ago against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Mavericks Probable Starters (23-17)

Jason KiddVince Carter
Shawn MarionDirk NowitzkiIan Mahinimi

Delonte West has a fractured right ring finger and Brandan Wright suffered a concussion against New Orleans last Friday.  Both players are ruled out for tonight’s contest.  Dallas’ starting center Brendan Haywood is questionable with a sprained right ankle.

3-on-3 Roundtable

You may be familiar with ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 roundtables, which feature opinion and analysis from ESPN writers and TrueHoop Network contributors on pressing NBA topics. Along with other THN blogs, Cowbell Kingdom has brought that format to the local level in the form of our own 3-on-3 roundtable.

Ian Levy and Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game join me to preview today’s Kings/Mavs game.

1. Match-up to watch?

Ian Levy: DeMarcus Cousins against  . . .  ___________. Brandan Wright is still recovering from a concussion and Brendan Haywood is questionable as he nurses a sprained ankle. The Mavs have been beaten on the boards and roughed up on the interior in their last two games. If Ian Mahinmi and Sean Williams can’t put up some resistance, things could get ugly.

Rob Mahoney:  Marcus Thornton vs. ??? — Rick Carlisle is no stranger to defensive cross-matching, meaning that any combination of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Jason Terry, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Shawn Marion could see time on Thornton tonight. How Carlisle chooses to play that matchup — and how the ripple effects impact the performances of guys like Tyreke Evans and Isaiah Thomas — could make a profound difference in the game’s result.

Jonathan Santiago:  The Kings bench vs. Jason Terry.  The Kings were lit up by Terry in their last meeting with Dallas.  The Mavs point guard scored 22 points in 21 minutes off the bench.  Can the Kings bench keep up their solid production of late and match Terry’s output?

2. Stat that decides the game…

Ian Levy: Pace. The Mavericks are right around the league average in pace this season at 91.6. However, they are much more effective when they keep the game slow and precise. The Kings play at the third fastest pace in the league, 93.7. The Mavs are 3-7 in the last ten games, which have been played at an average pace of 93.0. They need to dictate tempo tonight.

Rob Mahoney:  Sacramento’s turnovers. The Mavericks play good shot defense, but there’s no purer display of defensive success than the ability to take away entire possessions. The Kings are — for all of their offensive faults — actually pretty careful with the ball, but the Mavs have a tendency to get their hands in passing lanes and disrupt the natural rhythm of ball-handlers. How both teams navigate this particular matchup should be fairly interesting, and though ultimately turnovers may only be one factor among several that decide the outcome, I have little doubt that Sacramento’s ability to protect the ball/Dallas’ ability to force live-ball turnovers will play a significant role.

Jonathan Santiago:  Field-goal percentage.  Despite the victory, the Kings allowed the Hornets to outshoot them 54.5 to 50 percent from the field Wednesday evening.  The Kings must bring a better defensive effort against Dallas tonight.  Sacramento is a lowly 2-11 when allowing opponents to shoot 50 percent or more.

3. Likely to spend more money this off-season: the Mavs or Kings? 

Ian Levy:  I honestly have no idea. I hate pontificating on these things, because they never end up the way I expect. I’m dubious of Dallas being able to land Dwight or Deron, but both teams will have money to spend and PLENTY of holes to fill. I would guess the rosters in both Dallas and Sacramento will look very different next season.

Rob Mahoney:  Dallas, if only as a matter of necessity. By nature of the team’s construction, the Mavericks’ window for spending and improvement is much more finite than that of the Kings. I still think Sacramento will make some kind of investment in their efforts to improve in the off-season, but they don’t face the same immediate compulsion to spend. Mark Cuban has to open his wallet to retool this Mavericks team while Dirk Nowitzki is still performing at a high level, whereas the Kings can afford to be a bit more patient.

That said, with both teams likely making a move of some kind this off-season, we’re really debating a minor difference in degrees.

Jonathan Santiago: Both teams are projected to have a significant amount of cap room, but my money (no pun intended) is on Dallas.  They have a recent track record of success and a future hall of famer to build around, thus making them a more-preferred free agent destination.